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Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham Season 1 Part 1

Score: 89%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Warner Brothers Home
                  Entertainment

Region: 1
Media: DVD/2
Running Time: 285 Mins.
Genre: Animated/TV Series
Audio: English, French, Spanish,
           Portugese

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish,
           Portugese


Features:

  • Trailers

Letís start out with the caveat: I grew up on the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series. Donít let people tell you that cartoons used to be better back then. Not all of them were, and most were badly written and looked like jumpy junk. Batman was one of the stand-outs. It had decent story, writing, action, and it actually looked cool. It was dark, but not in that 80ís hair-band kind of wacky way. It was different, you didnít have to be a comic geek to enjoy it. So when a new animated Batman comes along like Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham, I do have my expectations set rather high.

The first thing youíll notice about Beware the Batman is the CG animation style. Batman is rather shiny here. The art style may take some getting used to as well. Hips are impossibly tiny and waists are even narrower. Sometimes the minimalist style makes things look silly. Take a look at Batman in his custom bat helmet in this series and tell me you donít see a LEGO guy. Sometimes facial expressions seem stiff as well, which is unfortunate. I spent quite a bit of time in one particular episode trying to figure out exactly how Sapphire, a woman caught in a tragic romance, felt about her lover. I certainly couldnít pick out much from her face in many key scenes. Letís say your significant other has been turned into a hideous beast before your eyes. Your face should reflect some sort of reaction, and you shouldnít have the same expression you would have while youíre reading the paper. Even Batmanís classic scowl just doesnít quite bend the corner of his lips down quite as far as youíd need it to. Heck, I think I missed some scowls, which is crazy for a Batman cartoon. At least the animation is overall pretty nice, though sometimes it seems like weíre getting a rough cut that lacks some in between animation frames. But there are some really great fight scenes that play out like theyíve been motion-captured from an action movie. The fighting and action looks realistic for the most part, which makes the fight scenes something to look forward to.

Well, until people pull out their Nerf guns, that is. I suppose thereís some sort of effort to not put guns in childrenís shows, so all weapons like shotguns and handguns are colorful and rounded looking. Itís a little amusing and hard to take seriously when you think that Bruceís parents were murdered by something that should be firing a foam dart.

Another thing that Batman fans will notice is the extreme dearth of any recognizable villains. While these are, in fact, real villains from Batmanís comic history, itís hard to believe as the first few episodes roll out. Seriously, a Wind in the Willlows style pig and toad villain pair? An egg-shaped guy named Humphrey Dumpler? A dude just named "The Whale?" This series certainly digs deep and rolls out the lamer villains. Donít fear that the entire series is just a parade of filler villains, however, as Ra's al Ghul and his league of assassins do feature prominently in this first season.

Iíve got to admit, another thing that bugged me about this series was how lame Batmanís lines are, on average. Someone says, "Sorry" and Batman replies, "Yes, you are." Oh man, that one kills on the playground, I know. He does have some moments of brilliance (relative to those lame comebacks), and itís during these times that Iím shouting, "THERE YOU GO BATMAN!" like he just scored a touchdown. Then, of course, thereís Batmanís voice, but thereís not much we can do about that. Kevin Conroy was legendary as Batman (and still is), but weíve got to accept that we canít always have our favorite voice actors. Anthony Ruivivar does do a decent job here in Beware the Batman. "Itís just not the same," is about all we need to say on this point.

The series does, however, have a continuous story arc, which I am a huge fan of in cartoons. Sure, theyíre a little harder to watch out of order, but it does allow for some great character development and more intricate storylines. Theyíve also done some interesting things with Alfred, who is now more of a soldier turned bodyguard than a butler for Bruce Wayne. Thereís actually a bit of tension in their relationship as Alfred struggles with the limits of his role and Bruceís cold stand-offish nature, while also trying to do whatís best for Bruce. Heís a tough character, and someone you expect to see butting heads in a pub more than you expect to see with a towel over his arm, waiting on a pampered billionaire. Another new main character is introduced to the Wayne household with the mysterious Tatsu. She also struggles a bit with her role and relationship to Bruce, and with secrets of her own, which makes the whole dynamic between the three of them interesting.

Many of the series' problems, however, seem to vanish around the 6th episode or so. Somehow the jokes get funnier, and the villains get a little less fairytale oriented. Cypher is a particularly good example of a villain that gives Batman some tough decisions to make without adding a layer of toys or other themes that are hard to take seriously. By this time, Batmanís, Alfredís and Tatsuís pasts have been explored and fleshed out, leading to a great cliffhanger.

Beware the Batman breaks away from its traditional past in a lot of ways. Throw away your old Bat expectations for this show. Itís a good time, but itís not my favorite Batman. That being said, it might still be due to my culture shock with this new iteration of the series. Get into this series at least up to the halfway mark before you pass any judgments.



-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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